If you're a night owl, you may be well-suited to working as a polysomnographer, who evaluates patients as they sleep to determine whether or not they have a sleep disorder. Much of the training for this work is accomplished on the job: once you have a certificate or associate's degree in this field, you must proceed through a two-level certification process to become fully qualified.
Polysomnographers (commonly referred to as polysomnographic technologists) are healthcare professionals who work with doctors to diagnose sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Entry-level positions in this field typically require a certificate or associate's degree as a polysomnographic technologist. This is followed by successful certification as a Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT). After earning this certification, a person in this career field may begin working towards certification as a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT).
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Other Requirements||CPSGT and RPSGT certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% for all types of health technologists and technicians|
|Median Salary (2016)**||$50,046 for all registered polysomnographic technologists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
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Polysomnographer Educational Requirements
Two organizations that provide educational information and resources on the emerging health care profession of sleep technology are the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Founded in 1978, the AAST has developed a recommended curriculum for polysomnography training, an examination board and standards of practice (www.aastweb.org). The AASM, founded in 1975, also offers board certification in sleep medicine and accredits sleep disorder centers and laboratories (www.aasmnet.org).
Accredited Educational Programs
The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits programs in polysomnographic technology (www.caahep.org). Polysomnographic technologist associate's degree and certificate programs may last 1-2 years and generally include courses in the anatomy and physiology of organ systems related to breathing and sleeping, sleep medicine, diagnostic practices, therapeutic procedures, patient safety and the treatment of sleep disorders.
The ASST examination board, the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), offers Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) certification to applicants who pass the RPSGT examination (www.brpt.org). There are three ways applicants may qualify to take the exam. One is to have completed at least 18 months of paid clinical training in polysomnography. Another is to be a credentialed professional in a related health care field, such as nursing or respiratory care, with at least six months of clinical work experience as a polysomnographer. Graduates of CAAHEP-accredited programs in polysomnographic technology are also eligible to take the RPSGT exam.
In an effort to create a tiered certification process, the BRPT has established an entry-level certificate program for people entering the profession of sleep technology. To earn a designation of Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) candidates must pass the CPSGT exam. The CPSGT certificate is valid for three years, allowing time for an applicant to earn an RPSGT credential before the certificate expires.
Polysomnographers are responsible for following safety precautions as well as monitoring medical instruments and patients during the testing process. A polysomnographic technologist uses electroencephalography to get a record of the electrical activity in patients' brains, which can indicate the origin of some sleep disorders. Other polysomnographer duties include operating instruments to evaluate breathing as well as checking heart and muscle activity, blood oxygen levels and eye movement.
Polysomnographers often work at night because they are responsible for monitoring sleep studies. In addition to assisting with tests and monitoring patients, polysomnographers provide patients with information about sleep disorders, interview patients and keep records and charts.
If you're just starting your postsecondary education, the best way to become a polysomnographer is to earn an associate's degree or certificate. If you're already working in a medical profession, you may be able to proceed directly to the certification process. This is highly technical and specific work in a growing and still-developing field, so if you're willing to put in the time to get trained and certified, it is likely to pay off with a job.